As your child enters the new school year, they will be asked to join a co-curricular activity (CCA) of their choice. There are a wide variety of CCAs available, ranging from more indoor activities such as robotics and chess to more active choices such as track and field or Boy’s Brigade.
Here are five things to look out for when your child joins a new CCA.
Joining a new CCA can be accompanied by substantial costs. Although parents may expect equipment or uniform costs, there are other costs such as extra activities recommended by the CCA, fees for additional training beyond what is available at school, certification exams or costs of travelling for competitions and training opportunities. Although Singaporean students are typically able to utilise their Edusave to subsidise some of the costs, certain CCAs such as fencing or tennis can be extremely expensive, going into hundreds or even thousands of dollars to equip and train your child.
On top of that, uniformed groups, performance groups and sports related CCAs frequently require a significant investment in time and energy. This can leave your child tired and drained with little time or energy to focus on their studies or other hobbies, particularly during the training period for competition.
One way of avoiding extreme costs is by applying for the Joint Sports Academy programme offered by the Ministry of Education in Singapore. This allows them to participate in subsidised training sessions for a number of sports.
Stress and Anxiety
On top of coping with a new school environment with new teachers, classmates and subjects of study, your child will also be facing more challenges at their CCA, particularly if they join more physically strenuous options such as uniformed groups like the National Cadets Corps (NCC) or sports like volleyball.
Having to perform drills or exercises correctly, participating in competitions, or keeping up with other students are just some of the challenges your child may face. All of these changes and challenges can lead to greater levels of stress and anxiety for them.
How can you tell?
Here are some signs of stress among children.
- Difficulty sleeping
- Having problems at school
- Easily upset or irritable
- Difficulty focusing
- Frequent headaches and stomach aches
If you notice your child experiencing several of these symptoms or other changes in behaviour, they may be overwhelmed by the changes they are experiencing. Try talking to them to find out more, but do not pry, as they, particularly teenagers, may get defensive.
If your child is like most Singaporean children, it is likely that he or she did not exercise regularly before joining their new CCA. This leaves his or her body unprepared for the sudden increase in frequency and intensity of physical activity, leading to a greatly increased risk of injury.
Pain can be a difficult symptom to diagnose as it is normal to feel soreness or aches after an intense workout. Pains may be caused by traumatic injuries, overuse injuries, growing pains or other factors.
Growing pains are a possibility, particularly if your child is between 8 to 14 years of age. Growing pains frequently occur at night and independent of heavy physical activity. If the pain lingers or recurs, it is more likely that your child has suffered injury and should be examined by a medical professional.
Activity related Injury comes primarily in two forms, acute injuries and chronic injuries. Acute injuries are caused by a singular event such as spraining your ankle, while chronic injuries develop over time and are caused by overusing certain tissues in the body.
Injuries can be common among student athletes. An American study of about 40,000 student athletes recorded almost 8000 major injuries over three years, the majority of which were in the lower limbs. Most of these injuries are due to repetitive training such as running, marching, throwing or swinging a racquet in various racquet sports.
Students develop injuries for a number of reasons. The sudden increase in physical activity, particularly for CCAs that have multiple practices a week for students who had more sedate lifestyles previously, is a common cause for overuse injuries. Unlike traumatic injuries such as fractures or cuts, overuse injuries can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are subtle.
Look out for the following symptoms:
- Pain that worsens with activity
- Limited range of motion
- Pain that continues over time
Some of the overuse conditions they may be suffering from include:
- Runner’s Knee
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Stress fractures
- Shin splints
- Patellar tendonitis
- Posterior tibialis tendonitis
- Peroneal tendonitis
The type of activity also plays a part in the injury suffered. Sports that require frequent side to side movement, pivoting of the body and jumping such as netball, basketball, and racquet sports are more likely to put stress on the ankle joints, leading to a higher incidence of ankle injuries in these sports. Activities that emphasise jumping, running or other repetitive actions such as the NCC or track and field are more likely to lead to stress fractures that develop over time.
If your child is complaining of aches and pains after their activity or complaining of aches and pains even when activity has been ceased, bring them to see a clinical professional.
If your child is having a hard time, it is possible that they will consider quitting their CCA. Quitting is a natural response if the child feels they are not having fun, is in pain, has given up or feels stressed out. However, it may not be the right response to everything.
Check in with your child consistently to see how they are doing. Children, especially teenagers, are not always willing to share their feelings, and even when they do share, are not always fully aware of how they feel.
Instead of simply agreeing to let them quit, take the time to talk to your child and try drawing out the reason for their desire to quit. Talking to them helps both parties to understand their decision better. Although they may have valid reasons for wanting to quit, allowing them to quit easily can encourage them to give up easily when they encounter future obstacles. Speak to them, encourage them to try for at least a while longer, but avoid forcing a decision upon them.
As co-curricular activities are compulsory in schools, many students and parents see them as a chore or a necessary evil for future studies. By talking to your child and encouraging them, you can help them see value in the time spent. And when they enjoy themselves more, they will also benefit more from the opportunities available to them.
Ari Tria Dzulkifle (Senior Podiatrist)
Ari Tria is a podiatrist in Singapore, she practices in East Coast Podiatry – Kembangan. Aside treating adults for various pain cases, Ari also focuses much of her clinical work on children with walking issues or sports-related conditions.